Weekend weather may impede electricity and water repairs

South of country worst hit by Storm Ophelia as responders work to restore services

An ESB crew  works to restore services following damage by Storm Ophelia. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

An ESB crew works to restore services following damage by Storm Ophelia. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Emergency responders to Storm Ophelia are monitoring anticipated poor weather this weekend to see if it might set back efforts to restore water and power to homes and businesses across the country.

The National Emergency Co-ordination Group (NECG) could not definitively say how long it would take to return all services to normal, although “significant” progress had been made in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

By Tuesday evening, about 137,000 homes and businesses remained without electricity, although this had been reduced by more than 60 per cent since Monday’s mass outages. About 48,000 were without water, with resumption of services dependant on power supply.

At a briefing on Tuesday evening, the NECG said the south of the country remained the worst-affected with multi-agency responders working into the night to bring many areas back to a state of relative normality.

Electricity supply crews from Northern Ireland, Great Britain and France are due to bolster ongoing efforts to repair downed lines from Wednesday. An ESB Networks spokesman said there were still “several thousand” locations that pose safety risks, particularly to first responders and local authority staff.

Clean-up operations

However, poor weather conditions are expected towards the end of this week and into the weekend, something that could affect ongoing clean-up and repair operations.

“There is a wet and windy weekend in prospect. We will be guided by Met Éireann’s weather warnings and, closer to the time, they will decide whether to issue any sort of particular weather warnings,” said Sean Hogan, the group’s chairman. “That it might impact on the restoration effort is our concern . . . We are working to try and get as much as we can done before that.”

On Wednesday, all public transport will resume normal operations, including school buses and the Luas in Dublin which had been shut down throughout Tuesday.

Irish Water said there were some issues with wastewater, much of it only partially treated due to power outages and flowing into clean “receiving” water bodies such as rivers. It is liaising with the Environmental Protection Agency and Inland Fisheries Ireland.

“In terms of waste water, the situation was quite difficult,” said Jerry Grant, head of Irish Water. “We have over 1,000 wastewater treatment plants and over 2,000 pumping stations. Five or six of the larger schemes were out of action during the day; Skibbereen and Nenagh are now back in action, back live, and we are still working on Macroom, Mitchelstown and Bantry.

Waste-water plants

“But there are a further 30 or so small waste water treatment plants across the region where there is no power supply at the moment and where treatment is partial.”

On Tuesday, 260,000 customers were taken off an at-risk-of-losing-water list, although 66,000 were still cut off, down from a peak of 109,000. This number was expected to improve throughout the night. Some parts of the country with small borehole schemes, such as in Co Waterford, could take longer to repair.

Power restoration was being handled by 2,500 ESB Networks staff as well as 1,000 private contractors. By Tuesday evening, 216,000 homes and businesses had been restored from a peak of 385,000.

Power restoration times for all areas are due to be published by the ESB on its Power Check service from Wednesday morning.

The NECG praised the early response to Monday’s storm with thousands of trees cleared from roads, and power lines inspected by the Irish Air Corp for breaches. All national roads were cleared by Tuesday evening with the focus switching to regional and local routes. In, Cork, 430 out of 500 blocked roads were reopened, as were 125 out of 131 in Wexford.